Review: Qatar Airways A380 First Class (DOH-CDG)

Qatar Airways A380 First Class
Qatar Airways A380 First Class

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Ok, I’ll admit it – I was excited. I’m not exactly shy about how much I enjoy flying in Qatar Airways Business Class so the thought of finally trying out the airline’s A380 First Class product was a very nice one indeed.

First Class was called for boarding at 06:37 for a 07:10 departure and, as the first person on board, I got my first view of the Qatar Airways A380 First Class cabin. Qatar Airways has arranged the 8 seats in its A380 First Class cabin in a 1-2-1 layout at the front of the upper deck.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class Seat Map

The stairway leading up to the upper deck looks impressive…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…..and the First Class cabin looks spacious if not particularly private.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

I had reserved seat 1A at the front left side of the aircraft……

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

….and it wasn’t exactly lacking in room!

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

The seat pairs in the middle of the cabin looked good for couples traveling together…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…and, as I found out later in the flight, they can be separated pretty effectively when the centre divider is raised.

As soon as I got to my seat area a smiling flight attendant offered me a pre-departure drink and, despite it being way too early in the morning to start drinking, I had to ask for a glass of champagne knowing full well what was going to be served 🙂

My seat had two very comfortable pillows on it when I boarded…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…and a pair of headphones were in a cubby in the aisle-side arm rest (in a bag) together with the touchscreen controls for the seat:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

This is also where the headphone socket is found together with a USB port and an antiquated audio input port (does anyone still use these?)

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

You’ll notice that the headphone socket is of the 3-pin variety so, if you’d like to use your own headphones, you’ll need to make sure you have a cheap adapter like this one which you can get from Amazon for under $4:

As well as the touchscreen seat controls there were some more basic seat controls on the armrest itself….

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…and the window-side arm rest housed a bottle of water as well as the remote for the in-flight entertainment system:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Although the seats are pretty open to the cabin they do offer a divider that can be raised for privacy from the aisle:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Here’s what that look like when it’s fully deployed in seat 1A…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

….and here’s what it looks like when it’s raised between the two centre seats:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Boarding + 3 mins: One of the flight attendants poured me a glass of Krug champagne:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

While I don’t get the deal with some of the more expensive champagnes (like Salon) I’m definitely partial to a glass of Krug so this was a good way to get the flight started.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Boarding + 8 mins: The cabin crew brought around the menus…

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…. and Bric’s amenity kits:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways provides all the toiletries you’d expect to find in an amenity kit in its washrooms so the amenity kits don’t actually hold all that much.

Continuing the tour around the seat area….

The power port for the seat is directly ahead and to the left of the entertainment screen (by the table lamp)…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…..and it was while I was looking for the power port that I noticed that the screen wasn’t looking too healthy:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

I didn’t have any plans to watch the inflight entertainment but this wasn’t something you expect to see in a First Class cabin and especially not in Qatar Airways’ First Class cabin.

Boarding + 38 mins: Newspapers were offered

Boarding + 38 mins: One of the flight attendants I hadn’t met up to this point came around to make sure that there wasn’t anything I needed (there wasn’t).

At this point I started looking around for somewhere to store my MacBook and I came to the conclusion that there really wasn’t anywhere suitable.

There are no overhead bins in the Qatar Airways A380 First Class compartment so my carry-on bag was stowed in locker forward of my seat which is shared with the cabin crew and the seat has a wardrobe behind the IFE screen…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

….but neither of those are particularly useful for storing items you’d like to have to hand during the flight.

Apart from the storage areas under the armrests (which are small and already full of things) there is a further storage cubby under the window…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

….but that wasn’t big enough for my MacBook and, besides, the sign in the cubby read “literature only”.

I ended up placing my MacBook on the ottoman ahead of me.

Boarding + 41 mins: One of the flight attendants topped up by glass of Krug and an announcement was made asking ground personnel to leave the aircraft.

Boarding + 46 mins: The cabin crew served Arabic coffee and dates.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Boarding + 50 mins: We pushed push back…and entered a long, long line of aircraft waiting to take off.

While we were waiting to take off I continued to take a look around the seat.

There’s a reading light built in to the headrest (on the window side)….

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…the headphones you get in First Class are the same as those you’ll find in Business Class and aren’t particularly impressive…..

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…and the remote control for the IFE is touchscreen and also the same as you’ll find in Business Class:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Boarding + 1 hr 28 mins: We finally took off and we got some nice views of Doha as we climbed.

Doha

Take off + 15 mins: The seatbelt signs were extinguished and the flight attendants came around to take food orders.

Food Menu (Click To Enlarge):

Drinks Menu (Click To Enlarge):

 

I chose to dine on demand (a great option you get in both First and Business Class on Qatar Airways) so said I’d let the cabin crew know when I wanted something and what it was that I wanted.

Take off + 20 mins: Vouchers for free Wi-Fi were handed out:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

I appreciated this because I hate how Qatar Airways changes for Wi-Fi.

Rather than charging a flat fee for the whole flight or for a portion thereof, Qatar Airways charges for its Wi-Fi by usage (i.e by megabyte) and I never have any idea how much I’m going need.

How am I supposed to know how many megabytes I use up when I’m saving blog posts to WordPress?!

As I set about logging in to the aircraft’s Wi-Fi system another Krug top up was offered with a bowl of warm nuts.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

The Wi-Fi login process was painfully slow (it took about 10 minutes) and, when it was finally done, the Wi-Fi itself was slow too.

In fact it was so slow that I gave up on the idea of getting any work done.

I noticed at this point that no pajamas had been offered so, with 6+ hours of flying still ahead of us, I asked a passing flight attendant if they had any on board.

The answer was no – Qatar Airways doesn’t offer pajamas in First Class on daytime flights.

At this point a fellow passenger asked one of the flight attendants to make up his bed so I took the opportunity to get a few pictures:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

With an internet connection that made tectonic plate movement seem speedy and no pajamas I decided to check out the A380’s bar….which is behind the Business Class cabin on the upper deck.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

This turned out to be a very nice place to hang out for a while as the bar staff were extremely friendly and fun to chat with as, it turned out, were the few passengers that came through.

As well as the usual array of drinks that the bar serves there are also bar snacks available back here:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

I tried a couple and they were pretty good.

When I returned back to the First Class cabin I found it in darkness so I had another go at getting online….but the speeds were still terrible.

Take off + 2 hrs 37 mins: I started to get hungry so, as the cabin was still I darkness I did something that I haven’t done for over 20 years – I used the call button.

Within moments a smiling flight attendant came to my seat to see what she could get me and I ordered the Arabic breakfast.

It was nice to be flying on an airline where the flight attendant call button is more than a vestigial piece of technology and is actually meant to be used! (try using the call button on a US airline and you will almost certainly get short shrift from the cabin crew who, let’s not forget, are really only there for our safety)

The table that you get in the Qatar Airways First Class cabin is huge as it’s designed to comfortably seat two people sharing a meal.

You’ll get an idea of the size when you see it compared to an iPhone 6….

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

…and a 15” MacBook:

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Take off + 2 hrs 59 mins: The table was dressed for breakfast.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Take off + 3 hrs 8 mins: A pot of tea and breakfast were served.

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

Everything tasted very fresh and the chick pea (garbanzo bean) soup was excellent with a bit of lemon squeezed in it.

The remnants of my meal were cleared away quickly and efficiently…but there was no sense that the flight attendants were hovering around.

In my experience Qatar Airways cabin crew are almost universally very good at this.

With breakfast done I decided to check out the First Class washrooms which are right at the front of the aircraft.

They may not have on board showers like Etihad and Emirates but they’re definitely big!

Qatar Airways A380 First Class

When I got back to my seat I took the opportunity to get some sleep.

Take off + 5 hrs 45 mins: The captain announced that we would be beginning our descent in 10 minutes time.

Take off + 5 hrs 55 mins: The seatbelt signs were illuminated and the flight attendants came through the cabin to thank passengers for flying Qatar Airways.

Take off + 6 hrs 10 mins: The cabin crew were advised to “prepare for landing”

Paris CDG

Take off + 6 hrs 21 mins: We landed at an overcast Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.

I noticed that the inflight entertainment kept playing until we reached the gate and the flight attendants didn’t come around to collect the headphones prior to landing.

Paris CDG

Take off + 6 hrs 33 mins: After taxiing around CDG for a while we finally pulled up to our gate.

Thoughts

Negatives:

  • There’s a lack of storage space around the seat
  • The Wi-Fi connection on this flight was terrible
  • The lack of pajamas on a 6+ hour flight on which the cabin lights are dimmed to near-darkness seems overly frugal for a premium First Class product.
  • If the dining menu was significantly different to what you’ll find in Business Class I didn’t notice it – it was surprisingly unimaginative.

Positives:

  • It’s always nice to be offered Krug on board
  • The cabin crew were, friendly, polite and helpful.
  • The bar staff were fantastic and fun to spend a bit of time with (although this isn’t specific to First Class as Business Class passengers are welcome to use the bar too).
  • The breakfast may have been identical to what you’ll find in Business Class but I always enjoy the Arabic breakfast on Qatar Airways.
  • The seat was very comfortable – it was spacious and, despite it being pretty open, the screen/divided did a good job of adding privacy.

Bottom Line

I’m far from an expert on international First Class cabins but, if I compare this to the First Class cabins I’ve tried, it comes away looking pretty underwhelming.

There wasn’t much inherently wrong with the product but there wasn’t anything sparkling either (apart from the champagne!). There wasn’t any wow factor like with the suites on Singapore Airlines and Etihad…or the food on Cathay….or the incredible attention to detail on JAL.

Perhaps it was the fact that I was on an early flight or perhaps it was because the flight was only a little over 6 hours long but I expected more.

Considering how much I usually enjoy Qatar Airways Business Class I had high hopes for the airline’s First Class product but, now that I’ve tried it, I’m more than happy saving a few thousand miles and sitting one cabin back.

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